|Elevation||95 m (312 ft)|
|Irish Grid Reference|
Abbeyleix was formerly located on the N8, the main road from Dublin to Cork. At one point, up to 15,000 vehicles passed along the town's main street every day. Since May 2010, however, the town has been bypassed by the M8 motorway, with the former N8 consequently downgraded to the N77 national secondary road, and R639 regional road.
There was a settlement at Abbeyleix as early as 1183, that grew up near the River Nore, around the Cistercian monastery - which gives the town its name.
The monastery, known as Clonkyne Leix or De Lege Dei, was reputedly founded about the year 600 AD, but of which there is limited account until 1183, when it was refounded and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin by Conogher or Corcheger O'More (Conor Cucoigcriche). O'More placed in it monks of the Cistercian order from Baltinglass, County Wicklow.
The lordship of Feranamanagh (i.e. the Monk's land), consisting of the parish of Abbeyleix, is shown on a map of the territories of Leix and Offaly from 1561.
Modern Abbeyleix is one of the oldest planned estate towns in Ireland. It was largely built in the 18th century by Viscount de Vesci. The regular flooding of the River Nore made the town an unhealthy place to live. Around 1790, John Vesey determined that the location of the town was not suitable for his tenants, and began to design a new one. The old town was levelled, and the residents moved to the new one. A memorial to the 2nd Viscount de Vesci, paid for by subscriptions, is in the town center. It features a water trough for horses.
Today, there are many historical structures standing in and around the town - ancient ring forts, burial grounds, churches and estate houses. The town once had a carpet factory, established in 1904 by Yvo de Vesci, the 5th Viscount – notably producing some of the carpets used on the RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic.
The Abbeyleix Heritage House is a local heritage centre, with visitor information and an exhibition on the county's history and local attractions. Original antique carpets and vintage costumes are on display alongside archaeological and historical artefacts.
The N8 road to Cork passed through Abbeyleix prior to the opening of the M8 motorway in 2010. With the opening of the M8 the N77 road was extended along the route of the former N8 from Durrow to Portlaoise. Access to the M8 from Abbeyleix is also provided via the R433 road.
Bus Éireann's expressway service between Dublin and Cork ceased to serve Abbeyleix on 30 June 2012. As an interim measure until 11 August 2012 Bus Éireann operated a shuttle service (route 128) to connect with Expressway services at Portlaoise. Slieve Bloom Coaches also have a route from Borris-in-Ossory to Portlaoise which serves the town.
There is a district hospital in the town, and a number of shops and pubs. Father Breen Park has fields for soccer and other sports, while the adjacent CYMS hall is home to a number of clubs. Heritage House also provides guided tours of the museum and runs workshops throughout the year. The Abbeyleix Manor Hotel is part of the Magnuson Hotels chain.
The "Lords Walk Loop" is a 2.4 kilometer loop that traces an old walking route taken by the De Vesci Family to reach the local church and railway station.
Buildings of note
Within the town, Abbeyleix Market House is a five-bay, four storey building which was previously used as a fire station and library. It has been renovated as a library and exhibition centre. Heritage House is a visitor centre which houses a local history museum. This 19th-century building was once the North Boys School. Both the Market House and Heritage House are listed on the Record of Protected Structures for County Laois.
Abbeyleix GAA club is the local Gaelic Athletic Association club. Abbeyleix Golf Club and Abbeyleix Lawn Tennis Club were established in 1895 and 1909 respectively. Other sports clubs in the area include a hockey club and soccer (association football) club.
- Sarah "Venie" Barr, (1875–1947) political and community activist
- Launt Thompson (1833–1894), sculptor
- Sir Edward Massey (1619–1674), English soldier and parliamentarian
- Francis Bacon (1909–1992), artist
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